An interview with Jen Carlile, Co-Founder of Flux

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Jen Carlile, Co-Founder of Flux will speak at KeenCon about using data to improve the build environment. When she’s not spending her time reimagining building design for a more sustainable future she is cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. (Jen, will you please invite us over for dinner?!) In our 5 question interview, Jen tells us about what she loves to build, her adventures abroad, and how she gives her users superpowers. We’re crazy impressed. 

1. What is that you build / make / create / think about / love / do?

I’m a software engineer building tools for people in the AEC industry (architecture, engineering, and construction). I want to empower them to solve the world’s most pressing problems related to urban population growth and climate change. If we’re going to house an additional 2-3 billion people without wreaking havoc on the planet, we need to approach the problem in a dramatically different way.

2. What is the greatest thing you’ve ever made, discovered, explored, or built?

I hope this is yet to come, but if I had to choose something from the past, I am proud of the year I spent traveling around the world making field recordings and composing soundscapes. With each place I visited, I tried to capture the essence of the place through its sounds. I made thousands of one-minute recordings from as far north as the Arctic Circle, as far south as southern Chile, and many places in between.

3. At Keen, we’re really big on Invention, Information, and Intuition – especially when they work together. How do these concepts interplay in what you do?

At Flux we believe in giving our users ‘superpowers’. One example of a superpower is being able to do something that normally takes hours or days, and do it in seconds. One example of this is automatically generating an energy model for a building; normally this takes anywhere from a few hours to a few days. If we can automatically generate this model and perform an energy analysis in a few seconds, it means that our users can start to develop an intuition around how their design decisions affect energy performance. When we reduce the latency of this information from hours/days to seconds, the design environment becomes more like a playground in which it’s easy to observe cause and effect, which is a great way to develop intuition.

4. We think it’s great when people build off of platforms to make even cooler stuff. What platforms have you found yourself working off of in your field?

There are so many great tools for designing and analyzing various aspects of buildings, and we integrate whenever possible instead of re-inventing the wheel. Some specific packages are Sketchup, Revit, RAM Structural System, Rhino, Grasshopper, OpenStudio, and EnergyPlus.

From a technology stack perspective, it may be obvious, but the web is perhaps the most exciting, flexible, and wide-reaching platform to come along in decades. We use a wide variety of Javascript libraries from many different sources for everything from 3D graphics in the browser (ThreeJS) to data visualization (D3) to defining our own HTML elements (Polymer, AngularJS).

5. Could you give us a hint what you’ll be talking about at KeenCon? <3

What happens if we stop designing buildings and start designing building seeds?

Come out to KeenCon to see Jen and several other brilliant engineers speak about how they’re using data to change the world. 

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Alexa Meyer

Growth and UX. Cheese chaser. Aspiring behavioral economist.